Protecting Wild Cat Habitat

by Grupo Ecologico Sierra Gorda I.A.P
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Protecting Wild Cat Habitat
Protecting Wild Cat Habitat
Protecting Wild Cat Habitat
Protecting Wild Cat Habitat
Protecting Wild Cat Habitat
Protecting Wild Cat Habitat
Protecting Wild Cat Habitat
Protecting Wild Cat Habitat
Protecting Wild Cat Habitat
Protecting Wild Cat Habitat
Protecting Wild Cat Habitat
Protecting Wild Cat Habitat
Protecting Wild Cat Habitat

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During this period, without the threat of forest fires, our team of rangers was able to have a continuous presence in all of the private reserves.  Miguel Flores visited all of the private reserves in turn, while, Abel Reséndiz made regular visits to the private reserves under his care from his base in Valle Verde, and Robert Pedraza made mostly random visits for verification.  Without a doubt, illegal logging is one of the biggest threats to the integrity of the forests of the Sierra Gorda.  It is booming in the absence of governmental authorities.  But we are very proud that in 2021, in the reserves, there was not one act of illegal logging.  This shows that our working relationship with the adjacent landowners is paying off. 

We had no problems during the last quarter, except for the entry of tourists into one of the reserves, a situation that we are dealing with in conjunction with the neighboring area.  These spaces have been returned to the wildlife, humans should only have a sporadic presence.  Tourism would have a severe impact on their conservation, especially before the start of the dry season with the risk of forest fires.

The current state of the reserves is satisfactory.  We have synergy with our neighbors, in our conservation efforts.  Our continued presence prevents any abuse, the extraction of wood, and biodiversity.  We will not lower our guard.

We had the pleasure of joining B Mexico´s national campaign using high-definition camera traps.  Their Director, Sam Carrera, visited the Sierra Gorda and gifted GESG three cameras which were placed in one of the reserves.  We are hoping to soon share quality videos of our forest beneficiaries.   

 

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Este periodo, ya sin la presión de incendios forestales, nos permitió tener una presencia fluida en todas las reservas y que ello redunda en respeto y protección para las mismas. Sin duda la tala clandestina sigue siendo una de las principales amenazas para la integridad de los bosques de la Sierra Gorda y florece ante la falta de presencia de la autoridad.

Sin embargo, tenemos el orgullo de que en todas las reservas, no tuvimos en este 2021 un solo acto de tala-robo de madera lo que ilustra de la mejor manera que nuestros esquemas e interacción de trabajo con los vecinos y colindantes están teniendo efecto. Miguel Flores tuvo presencia en todas ellas, Abel Reséndiz en las reservas que tiene a su cargo y alcance desde Valle Verde y Roberto Pedraza de manera aleatoria en la mayoría.

No tuvimos problemas o situaciones delicadas durante el periodo, salvo el ingreso de turistas a una de las mismas, situación que estamos atendiendo en conjunto con otros colindantes y detener dicha actividad, máxime ante el inicio de la temporada de estiaje y el riesgo de incendios forestales. Tenemos muy en claro que son espacios devueltos a la vida silvestre, donde los humanos sólo debemos tener una presencia esporádica y donde el turismo puede tener un severo impacto para su conservación.

Es obvio que ya tenemos una sinergia de conservación y respeto por parte de los colindantes, por lo que nuestra continua presencia inhibe cualquier situación de abuso, extracción de madera o saqueo de la biodiversidad. Desde luego no bajamos la guardia, pero la situación y estado de las reservas es satisfactorio.

Y tuvimos el gusto de sumar a un nuevo aliado; B México, organización que ha lanzado una campaña nacional de fototrampeo con cámaras de alta definición y la Sierra Gorda fue incluida en la misma. Por ello tuvimos la visita de su Director, Sam Carrera, quien nos donó tres cámaras que instalamos en una de las reservas, esperamos pronto contar con videos de excelente calidad de nuestros beneficiarios.

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Lush Cloud forest due to the abundant rains
Lush Cloud forest due to the abundant rains

During this quarter we maintained protection for the reserves through regular presence of our park rangers, without any problems.  They did maintenance on the fences and put in steel posts to prevent the entrance of four-wheelers into one of the reserves.

The firefighting brigade that is supported by World Land Trust and donors from GlobalGiving, worked this year from March 1st to June 26th.  They kept someone stationed in the observation tower in Valle Verde, as a first line of defense.  As well as maintaining the 68.8 kilometers of trails and firebreaks which they worked on last year and adding an additional 10.2 km for a total of 78 kilometers of trails and firebreaks in the service of protecting the reserves. 

Fortunately, with the rains arrived in mid-May and the fire season was cut short.  The damage was less than in other years, even though the danger was present on hot days between the rains.

There was a fire incident in the Puerta de la Yesca, which threatened one of the reserves and the cloud forests contained therein.  Despite the immediate response from the landowner and neighbors in the area, the other government brigades and our own, the fire quickly grew in size.  Our brigade was composed of the 10 members, led by Abel Reséndez, and 6 members of our staff (Salvador Sarabia, Juan Hernández, Miguel Flores, Abel Reséndiz, Roberto Pedraza and Lucio Baldelamar).  For two consecutive days, they worked and prevented the fire entering the reserve.  It came within 200 meters. 

The fire did severely burn cloud and temperate forests protected under the Biodiversity Carbon Program, which pays forest landowners for capturing carbon.  The owner, Héctor Montes, who has been dedicated for years to the conservation of his forests, was there helping support the brigade with labor, food and logistical support from the very beginning of the flare-up.  Despite the fact that there was damage to his forests, we will not remove his lands from the program, because we anticipate the full recovery of the forest vegetation, and expect to recuperate the CO2 lost in the burn.

 

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Este periodo operamos la protección de las reservas con el equipo de guardaparques sin problemas, manteniendo cercados y perímetros con postes de acero para evitar la entrada de cuatrimotos en una de ellas y  manteniendo la presencia con los recorridos de vigilancia.

La brigada contra incendios que apoya y financia el World Land Trust inició labores el día 1 de marzo y término las mismas el día 26 de junio.Uno de sus miembros fue designado para mantener observación en la torre de vigilancia con la que contamos en la comunidad de Valle Verde, y se limpiaron y rehabilitaron un total de 78 km, es decir, se limpiaron las 67.8 km de brechas que se trabajaron durante 2020 y se rehabilitaron 10.2 km de nuevas brechas cortafuego y senderos, con el fin de proteger a las reservas en las áreas críticas.

 Afortunadamente con las lluvias que se presentaron desde mediados de mayo y cortaron de manera temprana a la temporada de incendios, las afectaciones fueron reducidas comparadas a otros años, aunque el peligro continuó latente por los días de fuete calor entre las precipitaciones. Ello fue básico para limitar el área afectada que sí ardió en el incendio del Puerto de la Yesca, amenazando a una de las reservas y sus bosques de niebla, que aunque recibió atención de inmediato por su propietario y  vecinos de la zona, brigadas oficiales y la nuestra, lo quebrado del terreno y calor lo convirtieron rápidamente en un voraz incendio. En el mismo combatimos además de los 10 brigadistas al mando de Abel Reséndiz, 6 elementos adicionales de nuestra oficina (Salvador Sarabia, Juan Hernández, Miguel Flores, Abel Reséndiz, Roberto Pedraza y Lucio Baldelamar) por dos días consecutivos, cuando por fortuna llovió de fuerte manera por la noche y ello detuvo al fuego, que había brincado a buena parte de las brechas abiertas durante el día anterior.

 Aunque la reserva no fue afectada (el fuego llegó a menos de 200 metros) si quemó con severidad a bosques de niebla y templados, protegidos por pagos por compensación de carbono gracias a nuestro producto Carbono Biodiverso. En este caso en concreto, fue básica la actitud y empeño del propietario, el Sr. Héctor Montes, comprometido desde hace años por la conservación de su bosque, y quien estuvo presente apoyando en el combate con mano de obra, alimentos y logística desde el primer momento. Dada su actitiud, a pesar de que parte de su bosque fue afectada, no consideramos removerlo del programa, pues esperamos una pronta recuperación de la vegetación y la fuga del CO2 sea compensada en el mediano plazo.

jaguar track
jaguar track
Puerto de La Yesca fire
Puerto de La Yesca fire
GESG fire brigade
GESG fire brigade

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As the name indicates, cloud forests are an ecosystem that by definition has a high level of humidity, frequent cloud cover create an overlay of gray on a palette with tints and flavors from Nearctic and Neotropical realms, here in the Sierra Gorda.  The flora is unique in its diversity, as the spaces in which it grows are unlike any other terrestrial ecosystem.  There are endemic species present as well as species new to science.    

After decades of man-made destruction, less than 1% of Mexico is made up of cloud forests today.  12% Mexico’s flora can be found in these remarkably threatened places, where one in three plant species is endemic.  Thanks to the incessant destruction that our species is doing in establishing pastures and crop lands, and the irresponsible and/ or criminal use of fire, their small surface keeps losing ground.  Climate disruption, a vicious cycle, is creating stronger droughts and higher temperatures which are drying out the moss and the epiphytes (like orchids and bromeliads) and making them kindle.

This year thanks to the help and support from World Land Trust, we had our own firefighting brigade, made up of 10 firefighters.  GESG staff added 6 more firefighters, that together with other brigades, helped control the forest fires that were approaching those cloud forests that we protect.  It is a terrible feeling of desperation and impotence to witness the voraciousness of fire, consuming old oaks all the way up to their canopies.  The bromeliads that serve as an excellent nest for amphibians like tree frogs and salamanders, burned out.  An unthinkable sight as they are some of the plants that are most representative of this ecosystem and usually store water in their leaves.  It is so sad to see a Mexican Porcupine (Coendu mexicanus) and squirrels desperately trying to escape the fire and disappear in smoke.    

These men face the obvious personal risks that hiking over broken limestone, exposed with sharp cracks and holes, razor-like edges of living rock, and the dense smoke that gets in the way everywhere.

We are conscious that with the rising temperatures and the more pronounced dry seasons, fire is the element with the most potential to destroy life, especially in the ecosystems where its evolutional history has been marked by its humidity, and conditions that were so diametrically opposed.  They burn and there are few species adapted to resist the flames and grow back after the fire. 

The better prepared we are, with preventative measures in place, appropriate equipment, and training, the better capable we will be to protect Nature and our communities.

Please join us in our effort.

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The sixth wave of mass extinction is fast and voracious.  However, in December we carried out our first field survey, in one of our reserves, of an endemic species of magnolia recently discovered in 2015 (Magnolia rzedowskiana). This species is listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List as Endangered (https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/82782448/82783726).

There is a lack of detailed information about this magnolia species. Our population survey found that there are approximately 1,662 individuals in the reserve.  It also allows us to see how the population structure has changed and will change over time.

When the reserve was newly created, in 1996, the old cloud forest was under heavy anthropologic threats from an authorized program of forest management (legal logging), as well as illegal logging, and foraging by livestock. These activities left the area in severely degradated state. There was no understory and therefore no natural regeneration of the existing species (oaks, cedars, and of course the magnolias).  So, the first priority was to build fences that would keep the neighbors´ livestock out and protect the few magnolias that had survived decades of degradation.  And while a change was evident from the beginning, it was not documented in any way. Now the numbers speak for themselves.

Our team found that approximately 100 “relic” specimens, with diameters of 20 cm or greater have served as ´seed trees,´ giving way to a 1108% rate of natural regeneration.  The majority of the trees measured have heights of 1, 2 and 3 meters and diameters less than 4 cm.  These are the saplings that have grown thanks to effective and timely conservation in the field that has brought a species back from the brink of extinction.

Our work continues…

In order to avoid further reduction in this and the Magnolia pedrazae populations, and prevent the extinction of these species, we have more work to do.  In the future we will conduct a census wherein each individual tree will be georeferenced to allow for the monitoring of their individual growth and health. We will also survey populations of  Magnolia pedrazae, which was also recently scientifically described, and is in danger of extinction, https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/67513587/67513803.

In our current times, when we are increasingly feeling severe shocks from our human caused climate disruption, this is tremendously good news.  We have shown evidence of the effectiveness of our work in the field, which will help us to secure additional areas for biodiversity conservation.  In the Sierra Gorda, we say NO to extinction. 

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With the arrival of the rainy season, we were able to stop worrying about forest fires and focus our efforts on monitoring and protecting the reserves.  We are working on the maintenance of our fences in the most distant parts of the reserve and interacting with our neighboring landowners.  After an initial shaky start to the rainy season, this September brought abundant rain, ending the dry spell that persisted in 2018 and 2019.  The rivers and streams and waterfalls are following which means fauna in the various reserves have ample access to water.  Vegetation is also recuperating from the long drought.  This is especially evident in the area affected by the great fire of 2019, of the Hoya Verde reserve where we are seeing abundant regeneration of oaks and pines.

New growth can also represent additional combustible material in the next fire season (in 2021) which is why we are planning and coordinating to have a strong unified front with the same members of the firefighting brigade this coming year.  We project having them operational during the 4 most critical months of the dry season.

Fortunately, despite the pandemic, the monitoring and the protection of the reserves have not been interrupted.  This is because in many cases the monitoring is undertaken by individuals, alone, or by a group of park rangers, who can easily maintain a safe distance from one another.

Our hidden cameras caught captures of pumas, pacas, brocket deer, and collared peccary since our last report when we sent images caught on tape of a black bear and a jaguar.

We have the honor of announcing that in one of the reserves we found a healthy and robust population of two species new to science, the cactus Mammillaria rzewdowskiana (with a highly restricted distribution), a true daughter of our limestone mountains, and a new agave, Agave muxii.  It never ceases to amaze us year after year, we keep finding new species in the Sierra Gorda.  We see clearly that our reserves are islands of biodiversity of the highest value.  That we have an enormous responsibility to protect them at all costs.  In the Sierra Gorda, we say NO to the massive wave of extinction that is decimating life on our planet.  We thank you on behalf of this vast voiceless biodiverse community for your support and generosity. 

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Organization Information

Grupo Ecologico Sierra Gorda I.A.P

Location: Queretaro - Mexico
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @SierraGorda
Project Leader:
Martha "Pati" Ruiz Corzo
Jalpan de Serra , Queretaro Mexico
$44,114 raised of $75,000 goal
 
655 donations
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